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How to grow the economy and feed the world

July 25, 2011
By Barbara Wells, President and CEO, ArborGen
Chair, BIO Food and Agriculture Section Governing Board

For the past two decades, the United States has led the world in crop biotechnology innovation. Under this leadership, American growers have produced most of the world’s food, fiber and energy, while the U.S. agricultural sector experienced sustained economic growth and a positive trade balance.

But an increasingly complicated regulatory system and threats of litigation from opponents of technology have inhibited the continued growth of crop and forest biotechnology and impeded the development and commercialization of safe, beneficial products. Greater certainty is needed to encourage business growth, drive scientific innovation and reassure international trading partners.

To address that situation, BIO has developed and announced a summary of legislative proposals to reform the investment and regulatory environment for biotech innovation. The plan, crafted after consultation with industry experts, academics and BIO's board, is designed to minimize the regulatory and legal burdens that hinder our ability to provide food, feed and fiber, as well as to heal the world.

For the food and agriculture sector, the plan calls for streamlining the regulatory process within the USDA, FDA and EPA while enhancing the coordinated framework and avoiding duplication. Our regulatory system needs to recognize our exceptional safety record, reassert risk assessment by product – not production, and improve the timeframe for approvals based on science-based system. In addition, increased funding is needed for research, as well as regulatory oversight.

If we can enact policies that create a more hospitable business climate for biotechnology companies, we can also bolster the competitiveness of American growers, revitalize rural communities, spur job growth and invigorate the economy. Most importantly, we can better provide the feed, fuel and fiber for a growing planet and send a signal to the world that America is prepared to lead again.